Solutions for Self-Reliance

The SKILLS GAP

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When starting a new venture, every entrepreneur goes through the same process.

You look at your assets.  What you have on hand.    You then make estimates of what you need to accomplish your goal.  The difference between what you have and what you need is the gap you need to bridge.

When we’re building resilient communities, we go through the same process of comparison.  What we’re finding (and in the US in particular) is a massive skills gap.

The Skills Gap

Currently we have a yawning gap between people that can actually make/grow things and people that work in highly specialized bureaucratic roles.  That’s a big problem for those of us trying to build resilient communities before economic re-localization becomes a necessity due to the collapse of the “ponzi” economy.

How bad is it?

Here’s an excellent graphic (click to enlarge) from the National Journal (that I found through Derek Thompson at The Atlantic).  It shows percent of GDP by industry between 1947 and 2007.

From its portion of GDP, we can infer that the number of people in the industries that are focused on making things has dropped precipitously.  Agriculture share is down to 1% and manufacturing has slid to 11%.

IN contrast,  the ponzi economy has been growing at a breakneck pace.  For example, FIRE (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) has reached a whopping 21% of the economy.  Unfortunately, most of the people and the many of the specialized skills that are useful in this industry today won’t find much of a need within a re-localized economic system.

A Bright Spot?

Is there a bright spot?  Is there any hope in closing this skills gap?  Here’s what I see:

  • There is still a large number of people, regardless of industry affiliation in their day jobs, that have productive hobbies that involve making things (from cars to growing gardens).
  • A growing number of entrepreneurs that are breaking the mold and creating businesses that make/repair things locally, despite the difficulty finding support (see this story about an entrepreneurial cobbler in Toronto for an example).
  • The large number of computer engineers, from a variety of different industries, that are diving into personal fabrication and building systems for community resilience.   We’re going to see lots of activity in that last segment.
Some final words of wisdom:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.  Robert Heinlein.

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